Readers may remember an article I ran on May 23, 2020 about Bill Hollister of Valatie, N.Y. and his rare feat of bagging a tom turkey in New York State in 2018 with rare triple spurs. A bird with triple spurs is almost unheard of, as there are only two reports of birds with triple spurs — one of which is from Mississippi and the other is Hollister’s.
Since that article, I found out a little more about Bill. He is in the record book again, in particular the Massachusetts DFW record book. He shot the first turkey in Massachusetts during the modern MA turkey hunting era. The first year that turkey hunting was allowed (after 20 years of trying to get them reestablished) was 1980. He shot his tom in Pittsfield at 5:25 a.m. on opening day. Field dressed, it weighed 17 pounds, and was acknowledged by Mass. DFW as the first turkey bagged in Massachusetts in 130 years. If you can get a copy, read about it in the 1981 July-August edition of Turkey Call magazine. The article, which was written by Bill, told how he and his close friend, the late Bob Fitch of Pittsfield, planned and scouted the Berkshires in preparation for opening day of turkey season.
It is an interesting read and I especially liked the heading “Return of the Natives.” It was not only about the return of one native, the wild turkey, but also of Bill. Bill was born and raised in Pittsfield and had moved to Valatie, N.Y. years ago. He had not hunted in his home state in 20 years, but the call of the wild turkey brought him back. He made no secret of the fact that he would like to take the first wild turkey in Mass., and by golly, he did.
Only those who held special permits (1,000 hunters) could hunt, and they took 72 gobblers that first year. The largest bird reported that year was one weighing 21.3 lbs. and that was taken by Ray Barnes of Pittsfield.
Turkey, Deer seasons open MondayIn Wildlife Management Zones 1 through 9, the fall wild turkey hunting season opens on Monday, Oct. 19, and thanks to a new regulation change, has been extended through Nov. 28. There are other regulation changes of which hunters must be aware.
From Oct. 19 through Oct. 31, shotguns, muzzle-loading shotguns and archery equipment may be used. From Nov. 2 through Nov. 28, only archery equipment may be used. Another new regulation is that no larger than No. 4 shot may be used. Only one turkey of either sex may be taken in the fall turkey hunting season.
If you are hunting turkey with a shotgun or muzzle-loader, an official safety sticker must be placed on the gun. The sticker must be visible when sighting down the barrel. For a new or replacement sticker, visit any MassWildlife office or send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to MassWildlife Field Headquarters, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581.
Incidentally, the year 2020 marks the 40th anniversary of wild turkey hunting in Massachusetts (modern era).
Also, on Oct. 19 the Archery Deer Hunting season opens and runs through Nov. 28 in Zones 1 through 9.
With the turkey season extension now in effect, archery deer hunters have a new opportunity to hunt both deer and turkey during the entire archery deer season. As MassWildlife puts it, this expansion allows regular archery deer hunters a chance to harvest a turkey (one of either sex) that may wander past their tree stand. Who wouldn’t want to take a turkey just before Thanksgiving without sacrificing time in their deer stand?
In addition to a Mass. hunting license, an Archery Season Stamp is required to hunt deer during the archery deer season and a Turkey Permit is required to hunt wild turkey.
Pursuing turkeys from a tree stand is quite different from traditional hunting methods, but very practical for an enterprising archery deer hunter. MassWildlife recommends that you keep the following tips in mind while hunting from a stand in the fall.
Be still in the stand, don’t get busted! Turkeys have some of the best vision of any animal in the woods. They see the full color spectrum, have a nearly 300-degree field of vision, and are always alert for threats. During the fall they are almost always in a flock, which means that dozens of sharp eyes will be watching for danger. Use extreme caution with your movements when turkeys are near — even reaching for your bow can alert turkeys of your presence and cause them to move off. If you are still enough (and lucky enough) for a flock to come within your effective archery range, it is then extremely difficult to draw your bow without being detected. Pick a time to draw when the flock is not alarmed and when your movements will be obstructed by vegetation or other landscape features. Hold your draw until a lethal shot opportunity presents itself. You can increase your chances for success by practicing at home and modifying your draw weight. Draw and hold your bow for increasingly longer intervals while maintaining accuracy.
Never shoot a walking turkey! Turkeys have extremely small vital areas, so shot placement and accuracy are everything. Unfortunately, turkeys rarely stay still for more than a few seconds when they are feeding and traveling. Make your shot when the bird pauses for a moment. Again, practice holding your draw at home before the season — the longer you can hold your bow back the better.
Practice with the gear you hunt with! Practice with the arrow/broadhead combination that you’ll hunt with before heading into the field. Sometimes broadheads will fly differently than field points so it’s critical to know where your arrows will hit when hunting. A broadhead used for deer will also be lethal on turkeys; the difference is that the vital area on a turkey is much smaller. Consider practicing from an elevated position (for both deer and turkey) to simulate the angles that you will encounter when hunting from a tree stand.
Archery hunters, if you are hunting turkey and deer at the same time, MassWildlife invites you to fill out and submit a daily log of your archery hunting activity and wildlife observations. Your log will provide useful information on wildlife across the state. Download an Archery Deer Hunting Season Log from mass.gov/dfw/citizen-science.
There’s lots of information about these hunting seasons in the Mass. Fishing & Hunting Guide (abstracts) dealing with hunting hours, the wearing of blaze orange, legal hunting methods, tagging, transportation and more. Be sure to familiarize yourself with them before heading for the woods and fields.
Remember to stay safe. I am aware of one fellow having fallen from a tree stand already and he sustained a broken back.
Here’s hoping you have an enjoyable and safe hunting season.
Lee Sportsmen’s Association Practical Shooting EventTomorrow, Oct. 18, the Lee Sportsmen’s Association will be having a United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) event with three stages and two classifier stages of shooting. The Round Count is 117, starting time is 10 a.m. and safety briefing at 9:45. Cold Range Rules apply. The cost is $20 and you must bring exact payment as there will be no change made. Sign up for match at Practiscore.com.
Paraplegic deer huntMassWildlife holds a special three-day deer hunting season for paraplegic hunters. It is a special opportunity for them to spend time outdoors while hunting. Staff and volunteers place hunters in safe areas at several hunt locations in the state. Many hunters are able to see deer and several get the opportunity to harvest one.
When a hunter shoots a deer, volunteers assist the hunter by retrieving the deer, field dressing it, and getting it checked in on site. This year the season dates are Oct. 29 through Oct. 31.
Due to Covid-19, the number of statewide hunting sites has been reduced from five sites to four. The Southern Berkshires hunt will still take place.
Paraplegic sportsmen and women interested in taking part in the hunt should contact Susan McCarthy at 508-389-6326.